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Workers’ Rights and Food Justice

Workers’ Rights and Food Justice


As an intern with the food justice organization People’s Grocery in Oakland, California, I attend regular discussion groups with the other interns, in which we examine various issues of importance to the food movement. Yesterday’s discussion was fascinating.

The conversation centered around an article we had read describing the institutional racism inherent in the food production system in the United States. At every level of production – from picking the fruits and vegetables to serving customers at a restaurant – white people consistently make more money and work as managers more often than anyone else. And not because they have more experience. Clearly, this demonstrates how far we still need to go in this country before we’re actually walking the walk of equality.

Furthermore, it is a significant issue because it shows those of us interested in food justice that the movement is not only about the consumption side – increasing access to local, organic food, for example. It is also about ensuring fair treatment for workers on the production side. Industrial farms and food processing plants don’t only hurt animals and pollute or damage the earth. They don’t only result in food-like products that lack nutritional value and make us ill. They also exploit the workers, who are paid very little to perform jobs that can be quite dangerous, such as working with industrial machinery.

At its heart, the food justice movement is about achieving a food system that nourishes us and does not exploit people or resources. It is about creating a food system that is healthy, fair, and sustainable. Therefore, solidarity with movements to improve workers’ rights is a crucial aspect of the food justice movement, but one that is often overlooked.

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Sarah Cooke

Sarah Cooke is a writer living in California. She is interested in organic food and green living. Sarah holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Naropa University, an M.A. in Humanities from NYU, and a B.A. in Political Science from Loyola Marymount University. She has written for a number of publications, and she studied Pastry Arts at the Institute for Culinary Education. Her interests include running, yoga, baking, and poetry. Read more on her blog.


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12:49PM PDT on Mar 21, 2013


5:44AM PDT on Mar 21, 2012

Thanks for the article.

9:07AM PST on Mar 9, 2012

societal change is often slower than we'd prefer--no one gives up power gladly

3:12PM PST on Nov 10, 2011

Thank you

9:56AM PDT on Oct 19, 2011

thanks for sharing this

6:39PM PDT on Oct 18, 2011

Good article, thanks.

8:46PM PDT on Oct 17, 2011

thanks for sharing

3:04PM PDT on Oct 17, 2011

why is this so?I see many ethnic people working in our food industry here & their advice is invaluable if you want to try a different veggie or fruit instead of normal.Thats how I discovere lychees, bok choy,okra & many others.

12:07PM PDT on Oct 17, 2011


11:43AM PDT on Oct 17, 2011

Thanks for the article, casual accusations?...Please.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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